Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Not My Ministry" Syndrome

Back in the 80s and 90s, there was a lot of talk in business about NIH Syndrome: Not Invented Here. Among companies, there was an unwillingness to accept change that came from the outside. Any approach or new idea that did not come from within the company was rejected out of hand, and often a perfectly good solution to a problem would be abandoned because it was not an in-house solution. Apple was particularly guilty of this, and got a lot of bad press for it. But as the decades waned, the companies willing to adopt outside ideas and acquire other companies grew and strengthened, and those who did not failed. Apple was the rare exception to survive, but that did so by overcoming "Not Invented Here" by embracing outside ideas like Intel Chips, a UNIX core, the Webkit engine, etc.

I have been observing over the last decade that evangelical churches have begun their own version of this that I call "NMM Syndome" -- Not My Ministry. Churches which have maintained successful ministries for decades are abandoning them because they were not the idea of any of the current pastoral staff. Current ministries which are successful - but done by the laity - are ignored and starved for funds and attention. And any ministry which has existed for more than 10 years is actively discouraged, unless it happens to be the baby of one of the current pastors, elders, or deacons. If it is "Not My Ministy" then it is inherently a bad thing. Even trends embraced by churches from the outside are no longer "Helping Women in Need", but now has to be branded as "Mary Smith's Outreach to Redeemed Women". Everything is about whose fingerprints are on a ministry, and not about the fruit it is brearing

I guess this is part of human nature. But why does the church embrace a way of thinking which has already been shown to be a failure in business? Are you seeing a similar trend at your church? Am I wrong and this is nothing new? Let me know in the comments below.


Sean said...

Nomad, that is an interesting observation. I have a different name for it - "The Willow Creek Effect". As I see it WCE basically encourages all churches to build all ministries from within their individual church. It doesn't matter if there's a great version of the ministry down the street, we have to have our own. It's especially bad when there is a service being done by an organization that isn't explicitly christian.

WCE and NMM aren't exactly the same, but they're related. I think that a lot of the NMM is a result of pastoral ego and faulty leadership training. I worked for a pastor that believed he had to have the strong hand over everything, so if someone suggested something he'd have to either turn it down or reformulate it in some way so that it'd be his idea - dum! Where my wife used to work in the missions department, the church emphasized how much they supported missions but the only time you actually heard about it was when the head pastor was involved in that particular mission or when the youth were going to Mexico. The other 12 or 15 trips basically got one sentence from up front about leaving or returning - but never both. It's self-centeredness that if it's not happening in my particular field of view, it's not important/happening.

But anyway, yes I think that we could document this as a real phenomenon. As for the question of why the church is doing what failed in business, it's because church leaders are just starting to read the business leadership books that were written in the late 90's when this mentality was prevalent and the consultants that were big in business then are consulting churches now, because businesses won't hire them and they have impressive resumes if you don't look past a certain point.

OK, my rant is done.

CRCHAIR said...

I think a lot of this is due to the fact that so many Pastors end up in denominations that they did not grow up in. I know that many of the Youth Pastors in our church's district have no history in our denomination. The same thing has been the case for other pastors. When you aren't already familiar with something, it can be hard to see the value in it. (Also it takes time and effort to get to know the value in programs.)

Wacko! said...

It's a sad commentary, actually. A church is not defined my its pastors but by its participants. Seems simple enough to me. Define a need, generate interest, that's it. The church should determine what ministries to support, not the pastor. Otherwise you may be hindering the spiritual gifts of laypersons.

BowHunter said...

I want boys brigade back! The kids program currently in place at my church is total crap! (I have asked if I could re-start and was told to go pound sand... not in those words.)